Victory and Its Consequences

Philadelphia North American and United States Gazette, November 7, 1860

The people have elected Abraham Lincoln President of the United States. This result was clearly foreshadowed when Pennsylvania decided, by her great majority on the 9th of October, that the Administration in office was unworthy of confidence, and a change was imperatively needed. We have no feelings of exultation to express over a triumph which has long been morally certain; which was rendered inevitable by the crimes and follies of the party which is now doomed and defeated, and which was announced with emphasis by us the morning after our Governor's election. Success involves new and grave responsibilities, which must be met with reason and reflection, and require the exercise of a stern and unselfish patriotism. In this hour of victory especially, when we have conquered not only our old enemy, but discomfited others whom natural sympathy and former fellowship should induce us still to regard as friends, moderation comes commended with more than ordinary propriety. To be worthy of such a victory, is to bear it with becoming dignity for ourselves and with proper respect towards our opponents.

It may be proper at this time to consider what principles and policy are involved in the election of Mr. Lincoln, and the causes which operated to produce it. In the first place, we deny distinctly that it is either a triumph of the north over the south, or of any sectional aspect of the slavery question. No such issue was practically asserted, because the complexion of all the present territories is settled, and the declarations of the Chicago Convention against the extension of slavery, and the power of Congress over the territories, can only be applied when the case shall occur: Southern politicians, and their northern echoes, have attempted to force the issue upon us, and we have accordingly announced our principles calmly and firmly, in case the contingency should arise. There is therefore no reason for agitation, and no danger of any, if the agitators, who constantly agitate, as they say, to prevent agitation, will consent to let slavery alone, as we desire and propose to do.

The great idea settled by this election, and which, perhaps, operated as much as any other on the public mind, was the purpose to change the administration of public affairs at Washington, and to purge and purify the whole political machinery of government. The people were convinced that the long possession of power had demoralized the public service, and introduced practices which were undermining its integrity. They saw examples of corruption and profligacy go not only "unwhipped of justice," but even encouraged and favored by those to whom the guardianship of the public treasury had been confided. They saw power and patronage employed to establish a sectional domination, and the influence of the government openly enlisted in Kansas to force slavery upon an outraged and unwilling people. They saw our material interests neglected and injured, the press subsidized, elections controlled by money extorted from Federal office-holders, unworthy partisans rewarded by jobs and contracts, nepotism spread through the departments, defalcations common and countenanced, the laws evaded or misinterpreted, and abuses audaciously defying opinion everywhere. These and other outrages were seen and remembered, and the people determined they should be punished, and the democracy expelled from power. This general purpose operated more than any other upon the election, and we are free to admit it.

Pennsylvania, particularly, demanded that the principle of protecting American industry should be recognized and avowed. The Chicago Convention asserted it satisfactorily, while all the others either evaded the test or accepted it doubtfully. This question entered largely into our local contest, and was everywhere accepted. The western majorities speak as decisively, as those of the east, and the protective policy is again re-established as a part of the old creed. Economy in the conduct of the government, Homesteads for settlers on the public domain, retrenchment and accountability in the public expenditures, appropriations for rivers and harbors, a Pacific railroad, the admission of Kansas, and a radical reform in the government, all entered into the canvass and contributed to the election of Abraham Lincoln. No one issue controlled it, and any such belief is erroneous and cannot too soon be corrected.

We have thus seen that slavery was not the dominating idea of [the] Presidential contest, as has been assumed, but that various national influences co-operated to produce the result which has been witnessed. But if even the assumption were true, there is a vast difference between the positions of a candidate for the Presidency and the President of the Union. One represents a party and the other the nation in its unity, and without regard to section. Our belief has always been, and is not now for the first time expressed, that the mere fact of going in to the White House nationalizes, so to speak, the elected President, whatever may have been his previous predilections. He is compelled, from the necessity of the case and from personal contact, to mingle with all interests and men of all parties, and therefore to ignore, even if he cherished, all local or sectional jealousy. Mr. Lincoln will enter upon the duties of President as free from bias, and with as national sentiments, as any incumbent of that office ever did. More than that, he will go to Washington disposed not only to conciliate but to convince the south, by fair dealing, that he has no war to wage against it, and is anxious to have peace, happiness and prosperity. It does not belong to us to speak for Mr. Lincoln, but we venture to assert, upon no other evidence than that furnished by his past career, that his inaugural address will do more to restore confidence and to dissipate apprehension than any public paper issued for a quarter of a century. At all events let us give him a fair trial, and at least hear before we strike.